Hollis 500SE Regulator Review

Hollis 500SE Regulator profileWith every new regulator launch comes new “hype”, most of the time I have noticed that most of the improvement is in the visual design.  The new version looks cooler, it’s black and features aggressive characteristics to portray the “Tec” image.  Well this new design isn’t really new at all.  In fact it is quite old.  If I would have seen this a few years ago I might have passed it up for the newer looking round regulators…and I would have missed out big time.

Benefits of the Hollis 500SE

  • Pneumatically balanced servo valve system
  • Patented Orthodontic Mouthpiece for comfort and reduced jaw fatigue
  • Standard with 30″ maxflex hose
  • Easily disassembled without the use of tools and underwater if necessary
  • Left or right positioning – no upside down
  • Boltsnap tie point (Hollis.com, 2015)

Hollis 500SE Regulator backsideHollis has brought back an old design with a modern look and features.  Hollis highlights these features on the regulator’s website (http://www.hollis.com/500se-dc7), the ones listed above.  Of those bullets I feel that there are 2 that need to be mentioned again.

First the statement, “Easily disassembled without the use of tools and underwater if necessary” is an understatement.  I was a bit skeptical when I read this but wow this regulator is unbelievably easy to disassemble.  All you have to do is twist off the plastic nut that holds in the hose and pull the interior of the regulator out…done!  That is seriously it.  This is amazing for cleaning or removing debris.  To go hand-in-hand with that, the service kit is minimalist due to the simple, but reliable construction of the 2nd stage.  I would like to thank Hollis for this design because it makes yearly overhauls simple and time saving.

Hollis 500SE Regulators on BCDSecond, “Left or right positioning – no upside down” design makes for great application during stage/deco/bailout bottles, sidemount setups and finally air-sharing.  Students no longer have to worry about regulator orientation and an air sharing exercise can be done in the blind.

One of the most important features of the regulator (for me) wasn’t highlighted by Hollis and it definitely needs to be mentioned.  For those of you who know me know that I primarily dive a PRISM 2 eCCR.  The CCR is probably the greatest tools for underwater videography because there are no bubbles that ruin your shots, no giant distortions covering your subjects…just clear water.  This is where the 500SE makes it’s money.  For the divers out there that can’t afford to dive a CCR and want to minimize bubble intrusion in your videos this is the single greatest option…and at a fraction of the cost.

This past weekend I shot tons of video underwater (which I am still scrubbing through) and the 500SE’s performance related to video was fantastic.  At almost no time did the bubble ruin a shot or distract from the video.  I didn’t have to think about breathing during my scene captures…simply amazing as far as I’m concerned.

Hollis 500SE RegulatorSo how did the 500SE perform in the water?  Excellent, and I am sure that didn’t surprise you.  The 500SE breathes extremely easy and I didn’t have any issues with free flows during any dive, ascent/descent etc.  The mouthpiece is very comfortable and I didn’t endure any sort of jaw fatigue or feel any pull or push…the regulator rested perfectly in my mouth and was barely noticeable.

Drawbacks of the Hollis 500SE

I honestly could not find a downside to this regulator.  These regulators have now retained a permanent home on my gear for all my OC dive setups.

Summary

Would I recommend this regulator?  YES! Who would I recommend this regulator to?  This regulator makes deco/bailout tank streamlining a breeze.  It is also great for beginners who want a high-performance regulator that can meet recreational and technical diving demands as well as feel comfortable in their mouths during long dives.  Finally and without a doubt I would highly recommend this regulator to every open circuit videographer out there, especially those non-professionals that implement multiple cams like GoPro cameras on helmets.

Was there a question that I didn’t answer?  Still want to know more?  Feel free to comment below, I love to hear our feedback.

Hollis DX300 Drysuit Review

Hollis DX300 DrysuitRecently I got my hands on the illusive Hollis DX300 and I was excited to try it out.  Once unpacked it took all of about 5 minutes for me to start trying it on.  Before I go into the suit let me first say that I have been previously diving the Hollis BioDry 100 (front entry) for about 2 1/2 years and it was going to be very hard to top that suit.  The level of comfort that the BioDry 100 has is simply amazing.

Specifications

  • Entry: Front
  • Seals: Replaceable (silicone)
    • SiTech Neck Tite system
    • SiTech Quick Change Solution Oval
  • Pockets: 2 large velcro (1 on each thigh)
  • Foot Type: 5mm Neoprene Sock
  • Material: trilaminate (light weight) double diamond weave
  • Knees: thick padding
  • Zipper: YKK plastic, flexible
  • 3M reflective safety strips on each arm
  • Price: $1899.95 (MAP)

Test Conditions

  • surface temperatures: 15-21 C (60-70 F) and windy
  • Water temperature: 6-10 C (43-50 F)
  • dove drysuit using the PRISM2 eCCR
  • shore (shallow) & boat (deep) dives

With that preface out of the way lets begin the review.  Fist I was super excited to have neoprene socks (my BioDry will be going back to Hollis to have these added shortly).  The socks are amazingly comfortable and add a bit of cushion inside the rock boots.  This made for a really comfortable weekend in the suit for several hours each time.

Pros

11084398_787843441269441_1785072992_nThe next thing the wearer notices is that is is an updated plastic YKK zipper.  Now at first I was very disappointed and thought…”oh great plastic…I can see I will have to replace this when it breaks teeth”.  After a few uses the zipper is definitely more comfortable than most other dry suits and even tops the Biodry 100’s metal zipper for comfort.  I am hoping that the DX300’s zipper is every bit as durable as the Biodry 100’s zipper.

Finally, and this is absolutely the best feature, the user-replaceable silicone seals.  When anyone first uses this suit and carefully slides the seals on they will instantly notice the difference and be extremely happy.  These silicone seals are amazing…let me say that again…amazing.  First off zero trimming was necessary to get them to comfortably fit, secondly they are comfortable (in case you weren’t sure if I really meant it the first few times I said it). Replaceable seals are a big plus for me because of living overseas and so far away from AUP/Hollis.  The seals in the BioDry 100 must be replaced by Hollis.  This means that each time I need new seals I must send to my Authorized Dealer and they in turn send it back to the US to get serviced.  Needless to say this simply takes too long.  This was the whole reason why I wanted a second drysuit and luckily my second drysuit had user replaceable silicone seals.

The overall fit was great especially since it was an off-the-shelf size and not custom tailored.  All pieces work together to allow very comfortable movement and facilitate and nice range of motion.  This is especially important in technical diving because of all of the equipment that is worn and the range of motion needed to react in real/simulated emergencies.

One other benefit of the suit is that it was extremely comfortable on and below the surface.  Normally I can’t wait to take the suit top off and get out of the wrist and neck seals.  This wasn’t the case at all this past weekend (which was nice).  Because the suit was so comfortable I was able to wear it (as you dive it) all day without any discomfort.

As far as in-water handling the DX300 worked perfectly.  The inflator valve worked with the same precision as the BioDry 100.  The dump valve was the same, worked without any issues.  The drysuit material appears that it will hold up just as well if not better than the BioDry 100, however time will provide the ultimate test.

Being extremely familiar with the cold water diving of South Korea I was able to see one more benefit to the suit.  The DX300 material appears to provide a slightly warmer dive than the BioDry.  I am sure this is due to the thicker material.  I dove the suit in 6-10 C (43-50 F) water using only the lavacore undergarments and I wasn’t cold (except for my hands).  Usually I must add an additional top and bottom piece on top of the lavacore in the winter here.  I also think that this suit will be much easier to get into and out of for pool/warm water where a diver wouldn’t use full bottoms (i.e. shorts or underwear only).  This is because the BioDry has a rubber inside that tends to stick / rip out leg hairs and the DX300 has more of a nylon feeling interior.

Updated 08 April 2015: This suit is 100% compatible with the ANTARES Oval Dryglove System.  Read our installation and review here.

Cons

Unfortunately there are some negatives to the suit.  One that is immediately noticeable is the oval plastic cuffs that can dig into the wrists during wrist movement if not properly positioned prior to devices being put on the wrists (slates, computers etc).  The cuff also reduce arm space available for these items.  This was something that was rather irritating, especially since I was diving my rebreather and needed the arm space for my Predator (primary) Petrel (backup), wrist slates and compass.  Perhaps I need to rethink wrist slates that I love so much.  The other down side to the DX300 was the fact that the cuffs and in combination with the suit material (not 38th Parallel Divers just before a cold water divebeing wearforce stretchable) there were some instances where It was more difficult to reach the drysuit dump shoulder dump valve.  This would not have been a problem had I been diving OC (backmount singles/doubles or sidemount); this was directly related to the PRISM2’s counter lungs and harness system.  I am not sure if it is fair to subtract points from the DX300 for this but I don’t experience this with the BioDry 100 so it is a thought that will run though my head when selecting which drysuit to wear on a dive.

The other downside to the silicone cuffs is related to Hollis’s policy itself.  The Hollis website clearly states, “Fitted with SiTech Quick Change Solution Oval wrist system with silicone seals as standard (comes with spare seals)” however this was not the case.  I even contacted Hollis and they stated they weren’t aware that the suit was supposed to come with spare seals.  I also informed them that the site stated it was supposed to however not sure which is correct at this point since the site still states “yes” (as of 25 March 2015) to spares and I didn’t receive any or an indication that some would be sent to future purchasers.

I’m not really upset that there are no spares, it would just be nice to know in advance so that I could have purchased them to have on-hand. Since they are SiTech seals you can purchase them directly from a SiTech dealer.  I bought replacement wrist seals from Amazon (see right).

Modifications Recommended

Light Monkey P Valve on Hollis DX300 drysuitThe only modification needed for this suit is the addition of a P-valve.  I like to make sure that me and all my divers stay hydrated, especially in the cold waters on technical dives.

If you already have a P-Valve the quick disconnect is quite possibly the best add-on you can get. It allows for easy detachment from the suit without having to remove the device from the diver (works with both male and female systems).

Summary

All in all the suit has some amazing features that make it an excellent buy:

  • user replaceable neck and wrist seals
  • extremely comfortable silicone seals
  • standard neoprene feet
  • flexible plastic zipper

I definitely would recommend this suit to anyone, especially those who find themselves in situations where they cannot easily send back a suit to replace seals.

The only downside to this suit is that the wrist cuffs and neck cuff will take some getting use to since it does make a diver re-think arm device setups and feels slightly different in the next area.